What Is the Difference Between a Dental Hygienist and a Dentist?

Before pursuing a career in the dental field, it is important to learn the difference between the different career paths available to you. The most popular careers are dental hygienist and dentist. The main differences between the two careers are the amount of education required and office duties.

In this article, we’ll discuss how these differences will affect your career choice and how to get started in each of these career paths.

Office Duties

The dentist is involved with the treatment of the patient rather than the customer service type duties. They never do office work and will pawn that work off to the hygienist or assistant. The dentist treats diseases and will fill cavities, apply caps, perform root canals and will remove rotten teeth. The customer service duties are reserved for the dental hygienist.

The dental hygienist is mostly responsible for making the patients feel safe and will give them advice about treatments they are about to undergo. The hygienist will do a few office tasks such as updating medical records and processing x-rays. The dental assistant does most of the office work in a dental office. The hygienist performs simple procedures such as teeth cleaning and scaling. Dental hygienists have a very important role assisting the doctor during procedures and prepping the equipment before procedures.


A major difference between a dentist and a dental hygienist has to do with the education requirements. Most students perusing a career in dental hygiene will complete their program in less than two years. They will complete classes in oral health, anatomy and physiology. Most dental hygiene programs can be completed in twenty-four months but some programs can last four years. The best way to prepare for a career in dental hygiene is to take classes in math and science.

A dentist needs almost three times as much education as a dental hygienist. A student perusing a career path as a dentist will first complete a four-year degree at an accredited dental school. Once the bachelor degree is completed, the student will obtain a four-year doctoral degree in dentistry. Before actually becoming a licensed dentist, the student will need to complete one year residency program where they will get hands on training. They will perform procedures and treatments on patients while being supervised. Once the residency is complete, the student can test for their dental license.

Dental hygienist is a great career choice for those looking for a career that they can begin in a few years. A dentist should be a career chosen only by those just starting their education and are ready for the long haul. Both careers require a time and money investment but they each provide a lifelong career helping make life better for others.

Source by Sarah A Walsh

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